maati

this video i wrote and directed a few years ago for a NY based NGO, Breakthrough. The idea was to make a video in the popular format to initiate a dialogue on HIV and the use of condoms. Though the song was originally written about the Women of Uttranchal, the producers and i believed that the song’s story of women oppression was universal. The idea behind the video was to highlight the stories of thousands of indian women who in the urban and semi urban scenarios were still becoming victims to HIV from their spouses.HIV, research had shown, was not necessarily being contracted by trucker’s wives or girlfriends but by the middle and the workingclass.

We brought in popular actors to play these roles to reach out to a larger audience and sugar coated it into a music video format. Then to find a dance form that would not be ‘in your face’ or too ‘hindi filmy’ was a struggle. I wanted a simple form that would move across the cultures, religions, castes etc. After staring at videos for two hours of rajasthani banjaras dancing and their counterparts across andhra and romania, in what could only be called a ‘blurred moment’ i knew exactly what i wanted.

It fell in place quickly, Rumi in his travels had seen the Banjaras whirl themselves into a trance (in rajasthan when they do that we call it ‘mata aa gayi’ meaning the mother shakti godess has taken possesion) and perfected it into what we see today as the whirling dervishes. UNESCO had, i remembered reading in some magazine, declared the whirling dervishes a cultural heritage. In Rumi’s time, his daughters would perform it but as Islam grew orthodox it was reserved for men. UNESCO, i think in 1973 – 300 years after it was last performed by women, revived it. The women, i knew, in my video would do exactly that and with their hair open to celebrate their femininity.

Mandira and Sameer brought their acting talent and Andre his cinematography. The HIV message got its layers quickly – i decided to bring in simpler visual cues to celebrate being a woman – the ontop position in bed, the husband putting slippers onto her feet, him wearing bangles, her riding the scooter and him as pillion and finishing it with the trust getting lost. On another layer, i decided to pay my tribute to all the old architecture of Bombay that is getting torn down everyday by shooting the video against those locations.

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